BATMAN AND ROBIN by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Don't worry, it's not the perennially late-shipping ALL-STAR version by Jim Lee and the guy who killed The Spirit for a generation. This is the dream-team that gave us ALL-STAR SUPERMAN among other things. It's the new Dynamic Duo and their flying batmobile! All the weirdness you've come to expect from Morrison, plus an honest to gosh story you can actually follow.
BLAZING COMBAT HC by Archie Goodwin and a Pantheon of Sixties Art Gods. Collecting all four issues of the war comic that was so good it got put out of business by people who were afraid it would end the Vietnam War. Kudos to Fantagraphics for putting this together.
BLUEBERRY GIRL HC by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess. The creator credits on this make it a Must-Have but if you need a taste try this: "Ladies of Light and Ladies of darkness and Ladies of never-you-mind. This is a prayer for a blueberry girl. First may you ladies be kind." And it's all drawn by Vess. Highly recommended for anyone who has or has been a daughter. No lie, the older my daughter gets the harder it is to get through this book without choking up.
BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED HC by Robert Crumb. A straightforward adaptation of the classical Judeo-Christian creation myth, done up in R. Crumb style.
THE BOYS by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Trademark Ennis violence, depravity and dark satire with layer upon layer of fandom in-jokes, still managing to hold up as an accessible mystery-thriller with capes. A must for fans of Ennis's anything goes style.
CHARLES DARWIN'S ON THE ORGIN OF SPECIES: A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION SC by Michael Keller and Nicole Rager Fuller. A beautiful new presentation of the book that changed the world and raised us that much further from the muck of our common origins. Have a look at what's been pissing off the morons for 150 years. Highly recommended.
CHEW by John Layman and Rob Guillory. Set in an alternate United States where meat is outlawed and the USFDA is more powerful than the NSA and the Mossad's secret love-child. Agent Tony Chu has the ultimate power and the ultimate curse: He's a cibopath, a guy who gets psychic impressions off everything he eats. Imagine "The Dead Zone" meets "Top Chef." It's twisted, over the top and available in trade. Bon apetite!
COMIC BOOK COMICS by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey. The Evil Twin boys and their comic about comics! The latest of their four issues features stories about the rise of Marvel Comics, Robert Crumb and Tin-Tin! More fascinating than a lot of imaginary stories being published today! Highly recommended!
CRIMINAL: SINNERS by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. The latest of the story arcs has Tracy Lawless back, solving a crime only a guy who's not a cop can solve. Lawless is among the more fascinating and conflicted characters in the Criminalverse and it's great to see him back in action even as he seems more lost than ever. And the comics-exclusive back-up text features remain as irresistible as ever.
EC ARCHIVES: FRONTLINE COMBAT VOL. 1 HC by Various Geniuses. Collecting the first six issues of this masterful series of war comics from 1950-51. Still some of the best ever done. Highly recommended.
FAHRENHEIT 451 GN by Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton. A graphic adaptation of Bradbury's classic story of firemen who really expand on the traditional definition of the job. Highly recommended.
FINAL CRISIS AFTERMATH: RUN by Matthew Sturges and Freddie E. Williams II. Full disclosure: I thought FINAL CRISIS was a huge let-down and all the other spin-off series were unreadable. This was the exception! All you needed to know was the main character was a costumed moron who taped the murder of the Martian Manhunter on his cell phone. The Red Flame. Everyone hates him so now he's got to RUN! And he does, growing more powerful and loathsome with every issue until… Well, let's not give it away, but the beauty of it is you're kind of rooting for him the whole time.
FLASH: REBIRTH by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver. More honesty: I still don't follow how exactly Flash #2, Barry Allen, came back from the dead or why, but this series makes me glad he did. And it looks great.
GARTH ENNIS' BATTLEFIELDS by Ennis and Several Artists. Ennis's obsession with World War Two and the people who fought on all sides of it seems inexhaustible. As a result we readers are able to enjoy (if that's the right word) two or three mini-series per year exploring the tragedy, gallows humor and tarnished nobility of those people whose sacrifices made everything we enjoy today possible. No capes, but lots of heroes. Recommended.
THE GOON written and drawn by Eric Powell. This one's hard to explain except to say, "Imagine if Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam had a baby and it was raised by Mickey Spillane…" I love it and so should you.
GREEN LANTERN by Geoff Johns and Various Artists. Okay, the whole "War of Light/Blackest Night" thing is a love it or hate it deal. Got it. But no one can deny Geoff Johns is pulling off the most successful, character-defining GL story since the Denny O'Neill-Neal Adams run in the seventies. Fine, you could deny it but you'd be wrong. And who doesn't love those promotional power rings?
INCOGNEGRO SC by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece. The paperback of Johnson and Pleece's powerful graphic novel about a light-skinned African-American reporter passing as white in the deep South at the height of the segregation era. Highly, highly recommended.
INCOGNITO by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. This is the mini that took Ed and Sean away from CRIMINAL for a while and, though I would have preferred more CRIMINAL, this story of a super-villain busting out of witness protection was still pretty darn good. Shocked if this isn't a movie in a few years.
IRREDEEMABLE by Mark Waid and Peter Krause. A little number from the author of KINGDOM COME about a god-like superhero going bad. Really, horrifyingly good. Recommended.
LOGICOMIX: AN EPIC SEARCH FOR TRUTH SC by Apostolos Doxiadas, Christos Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos and Annie DiDonna. A graphic biography of philosopher/mathematician Bertrand Russell woven with interstitials of the creation of the bio itself. An well-crafted, informative brain-melt with which to pass an afternoon.
MARVELS PROJECT by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. The best thing to happen to Marvel/Timely's golden age since THE TWELVE. See how it all came to be with a little retroactive continuity polish. Highly recommended.
MASTERPIECE COMICS HC written and drawn by R. Sikoryak. This one is a true Must-Have if you are a fan of classic literature, classic comics and ingenious mash-ups. This one lives up to its name. Highly, highly recommended.
MIGHTY AVENGERS by Dan Slott and Khoi Pham. A niche book for people who always wanted to see founding Avenger Hank Pym really come into his own. If you like your hero/scientists eccentric and unpredictable Dan Slott delivers yet again.
MORE THAN COMPLETE ACTION PHILOSOPHERS SC by Fred van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey. Collecting all nine issues of the original run, plus four all-new stories written just for this book! A real treat! Also a bit of aggravation for those of us who bought all the comics and original trades. I suppose we must be philosophical about it….
NORTHLANDERS by Brian Wood and Various Artists. A series of stories (sagas?) unconnected by anything but the setting of Viking culture 1000 years ago. Some are almost like westerns, some are police procedurals, but all of them create a sense of place more successfully than most books. Wood turns cold, bleak isolation into unexpectedly fertile ground. Recommended.
ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS HC by Neil Gaiman and Brett Helquist. A hardback edition of the story Neil wrote for the UK's World Book Day about a boy in Viking times who must save Asgard from the Frost Giants and restore springtime to the world. Illustrated by Brent Helquist (of Lemony Snicket fame), 128 pages and appropriate for young readers. Recommended.
PICTURES THAT TICK SC by Dave McKean. A graphic brain-bender from the guy who brought you every single cover of SANDMAN among too many other works of genius to mention here. Gotta look!
RASL written and drawn by Jeff Smith. The latest ongoing from the creator of BONE. This one's more for mature readers as it involves reptilian assassins chasing down a scientist turned dimension-hopping art thief. Cartoon, sci-fi noir is the closest it comes to a category, so don't be fooled by the simple appearance of it. There's dark doings here as each issue reveals another layer to the onion and draws you that much further in.
RICHARD STARK'S PARKER THE HUNTER HC written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke. Donald Westlake's first Parker novel adapted by comics master Cooke. Yeah, you need this, especially if you enjoyed the movie "Payback" with Mel Gibson and Maria Bello. Unbelievably good and highly recommended.
SCALPED by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera. This series continues to be among the most underappreciated on the monthly stands, even as its trade collections sell out. A bloody crime comic set on a fictional Indian reservation with a hero who seems on a race to destroy himself before his past can do it for him. Joyously unpredictable even as it grinds the reader's face in the squalor and hopelessness of The Rez. Forget the year, this is one of the best comics of the decade. Read it.
SECRET IDENTITY: FETISH ART OF SUPERMAN'S CO-CREATOR JOE SHUSTER HC by Craig Coe. Exactly what it sounds like. Spicy pictures drawn by the guy who helped create the all-American icon of the 20th century! Not for kids but highly recommended anyway.
SPECIAL FORCES written and drawn by Kyle Baker. Okay, so this title comes out about as often as Boo Radley. It's still Kyle Baker so it's gorgeous, clever and edgy as all get out. This comic was inspired by the corrupt recruiting practices of the US Military that put kids with autism in the front lines of the Iraq War. Seriously. This happened. Highly recommended.
THE STAND by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Mike Perkins. This encompasses all the mini-series thus far in this epic adaptation of Stephen King's most famous novel. For the two guys who haven't read it already, a strain of flu wipes out 95 percent of the population and the survivors have to choose whether to ally themselves with well-intentioned do-gooders or a goal-oriented monster. Having seen the 1994 TV adaptation I can say with assurance that this is a more skillful and satisfying beast. Accessible even to the above-mentioned two guys. Here's hoping the Aguirre-Sacasa/Perkins creative team sticks together when it's all over. These guys have the magic.
STRANGE SUSPENSE: STEVE DITKO ARCHIVES, VOL. 1 HC edited by Blake Bell. The complete two-year run of all Ditko's pre-code horror comics from the earliest days of his career. You must have this.
STUMPTOWN #1 by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth. When a private dick with a gambling problem finds herself on the hook for big money to a casino the best way out is probably to do the casino owner a favor. Because that always ends well. Highly "Rucka-mended!"
SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. It's the new Official Canon of Superman's Life and Times. Put your Byrne-autographed MAN OF STEEL back on the shelf, kids. It is now an antique. Recommended.
TROTSKY HC written and drawn by Rick Geary. A graphic biography of Stalin's arch-nemesis, and it ain't Hitler. Two pick-axes up! Recommended!
UNDERGROUND #1 of 4 by Steve Lieber and Jeff Parker. "Thriller set in a cave" doesn't really do justice to this tense, good-looking comic by the artist of WHITEOUT and the author of AGENTS OF ATLAS. Highly recommended.
UNWRITTEN by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. This one's heating up fast, kids. It's the story of a guy who may or may not have been written into the real world and all that implies about other pop fiction characters. This is not your father's Earth-Prime! Recommended.
WALKING DEAD by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard. It's the awesome zombie movie that never ends, now into its 6th triumphant year and heading to television on AMC. Kirkman is a master of the gut-wrench and the uncomfortable "What if?" and Adlard seems almost supernatural in his ability to render post-apocalyptic people and scenery just right. The skill these guys have in putting their readers shoulder to shoulder with the besieged survivors can't be overstated. This is the zombie book for people who don't like zombie books. And those who do. Not for kids.
WARREN ELLIS FRANKENSTEIN'S WOMB GN by WE and Marek Oleksicki. That nice Mister Ellis takes on Mrs. Shelley and her lad, teaching us a few things we didn't know along the way. Not for kids.
WAS SUPERMAN A SPY AND OTHER COMIC BOOK LEGENDS REVEALED SC by Brian Cronin. A fun collection of comics industry legends and apocrypha, perfect reading for the one seater or anywhere else.
WEDNESDAY COMICS by Many, Many Amazing Writers and Artists. This was the most audacious experiment of the year: DC Comics taking some of their best and least known characters and putting together a 12-week anthology book in the form of a traditional Sunday newspaper comics section. It was honestly very hit or miss and everyone had their favorites and their fishwrap, but this was a great reminder of how much we're missing in the real comics sections today. Let's hope DC learns and tries again. (BTW, my favorite strips were Adam Strange and Kamandi, two characters I never had much interest in when they had their own books.)
YOU SHALL DIE BY YOUR OWN EVIL CREATION SC by Fletcher Hanks and Paul Karasik. This is the sequel volume to 2007's deeply disturbing and entertaining I SHALL DESTROY ALL CIVILIZED PLANETS and completes the collected works of golden-age writer/artist (and monster) Fletcher Hanks. Publisher Fantagraphics has generously provided a 13 page preview on their website http://www.fantagraphics.com/. Highly recommended.